Godolphin’s head trainer John O’Shea knows he is probably running for second again but said he “couldn’t be happier” with his 2016 Chelmsford Stakes hopeful on Saturday Hartnell.
The feature race at Royal Randwick on the weekend is the weight-for-age $250,000 Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) featuring the second-up run of the season of Chris Waller’s superstar mare Winx.
Winx posted her 10th win on the trot a fortnight back at the track with an all-too-easy Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) success.
She is now at the ridiculously short Chelmsford Stakes odds of $1.14 through Ladbrokes.com.au to keep the winning streak going as she heads towards a title defence in Melbourne’s Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) this October.
Runner-up to Winx crossing three and a half-lengths behind the glamour daughter of Street Cry was Authorized six-year-old Hartnell.
That was his third encounter with Australia’s top racehorse, the import fifth in last year’s Cox Plate and fifth again in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) first-up to Winx in late February.
Hartnell hasn’t won a race since the Group 1 The BMW (2400m) in March last year giving him a lengthy drought to break this campaign.
Coming up against Winx in the Chelmsford, he is at $11 to score the massive boilover with James McDonald retaining the ride from a good barrier two draw.
While realistic about their chances of turning the tables of Winx, O’Shea is happy with how Hartnell has come through his first-up run and is positive he’ll be in the money again on the weekend.
“I couldn’t be happier with him. He’s made nice improvement since his first-up run,” O’Shea told AAP.
The course proper at Randwick is currently rated a Soft (6) and with more rain predicted for Friday, the track could be downgraded before Chelmsford Stakes Day.
O’Shea is unconcerned however, Hartnell well-performed on Soft going with four wins from seven starts on that kind of going.
“The wet track won’t be a problem for him and the mile is more to his liking than the seven [furlongs] last start,” he said; Hartnell having enjoyed two wins and two seconds from six starts over the mile to date.
Waller has also confirmed Winx will line-up in the Chelmsford Stakes rain, hail or shine this Saturday so long as the surface was safe.
She has had three goes on Soft going for a win and a second, and has won her sole Heavy-track start to date when winning the 2014 Furious Stakes on the same day as the Chelmsford two years ago.
The only other single-figure hope along with Winx in the race is the James Cummings-trained Group 1 winning three-year-old Prized Icon out to become the first of his age to win the race in the past 30 years.
The More Than Ready colt, who won the Group 1 Champagne Stakes (1600m) over the track and distance in April, comes off a first-up fourth in the Group 3 Up And Coming Stakes (1300m).
He drops from 61kg that run to 50.5kg at weight-for-age on the weekend and Cummings said having Winx in the race was a definite motivator.
“One of the attractions of greatness like Winx is it makes us all better, it makes us work harder and it makes us dream bigger,” Cummings told The Daily Telegraph.
“We admire Winx as much as the next stable but she is lifting us all to get to a level that is very rarely achieved.
“She hasn’t gotten there by being an untouched commodity.
“She battled through two-year-old racing and wet tracks and she was defeated in spring and autumn three-year-old races.
“She didn’t get to where she was by being hidden at all. That’s the contest and beauty of horse racing.
“We are trying to win and she is leagues ahead of the rest on form and therefore the top pick, and the one we are trying to beat.”
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